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November 07, 2009 - No Place Like Home: Adoption Alliance celebrates 20 years

What: Celebration of 20-year anniversary and recognition of co-founder Virginia Volante Appel

Where: Westin Westminster

When: Saturday, November 7, 2009

Time: 5-9 p.m.

Ticket Prices: $60

Beneficiary: Adoption Alliance

Mistress of Ceremonies: Tracey Blustein, executive director

Gala Chairperson(s): Cheryl Wisdom

Founders: Virginia Appel, Donna Crown

Executive Director: Tracey Blustein

Committee Members: Steering Committee: Cindy Achten, Karen Barsch, Debra Orecchio; committee members: Tiffany Brunk, Jane Crisler, Mary Lou Faddick, Sharon Faison-Cohen, Sue Haeberle, Mary Piasecki, Barbara Rush, Kathy Schwappach

Catering: Westin Westminster

Entertainment: Storytellers: Kate Lutz, Bailey Phelps

Menu: Caesar salad, Cavatappi pasta, Italian meatballs, chicken lemonada, sauteed broccoli and squash, selection of wines, fresh focaccia bread and assorted rolls, dessert platter: brownies, fruit tarts, chocolate twill, chocolate-covered strawberries, tiramisu squares, coffee

Attendance: Around 400

Attire: Semi-casual


Board of Directors: Chair of the board: Maureen Cain, chair-elect of the board: Sherri Giger, board members: Dave Bruining (treasurer), Jennifer Biever (secretary), Julie Bengtson, Kim Caschette, Scott Foust, Mike Ivy, Michele Mamet, Cyd Petre, Leslie Schaeffer, Diann Shannon, Jud Snyder

Blacktie Photos by: Lisa Perry

 Virginia Appel (center) is presented with a plaque for her years as Adoption Alliance founder and executive director. Also pictured: Joy and Sajal Lee.
Virginia Appel (center) is presented with a plaque for her years as Adoption Alliance founder and executive director. Also pictured: Joy and Sajal Lee.

Dorothy says there’s no place like home at the conclusion of The Wizard of Oz, and Adoption Alliance’s 20-year anniversary celebration was the personification of that sentiment. The Westin Westminster conference center was transformed from hotel to “home” for almost 400 guests who attended the group’s "No Place Like Home" gala on Saturday, Nov 7. The event brought together adoptive families, friends, supporters and staff to celebrate a milestone and honor agency co-founder Virginia Volente Appel. Executive director Tracey Blustein said, “We felt that when Virginia left the organization, she left with little fanfare and was never really acknowledged for the foundation she set for the organization’s ethics, its culture and how it works. That foundation has really sustained the organization over these 20 years. We wanted to take the opportunity to honor her, and celebrate that in 20 years well over 2,000 children have been placed in adoptive homes.” It was also an ideal time to capture a myriad of family stories and catch up with people who were involved in the organization's past. "It’s an opportunity to gather up the legacy of the organization and bring it together.”

The event took on the flavor of a family reunion with kids and adults sharing stories and a meal during the evening. Festivities began with a cocktail reception and silent auction that featured an array of 70 items with themes that included Body & Soul, Experience It, The World Awaits and Kids Rule! Storytellers Kate Lutz and Bailey Phelps entertained youngsters with interactive tales, while grownups mingled and placed their bids. Dinner was served family-style and Appel took the stage as guest of honor. “I’m honored and humbled,” she told a packed ballroom. “The honor is not just mine alone. It goes to all the people who have contributed.“ At the reception, she compared the event to a walk down memory lane. “I’ve seen people so dear to me: former staff members and those whose children are now adults. I feel personally honored to have worked with these people. “

During the stage presentations, adoptee Anna Stein read her original poem “I Am From," and adoptive dad Dan Sweetser and Krista Melusky (adopted from Korea by the Melusky family) performed “The Adoption Song." Appel received a plaque and collection of family stories from brother and sister Sajal and Joy Klee—Sajal adopted from India, Joy from Vietnam. Peter Mackintosh introduced his original, heartfelt song that was featured in a video about his adoption experience.  

“The Adoption Alliance is considered very knowledgeable, stable and ethical,” said Blustein.  “It also has a reputation for being welcoming. We are one of the few organizations known for really working with families of all different types: same-sex, single-parent, traditional—families who come from a lot of different places in life.” The organization was created by Appel and Donna Crown to help find loving homes for children considered “hard to place.” The group's overall philosophy: Children grow better in families. For more information, visit


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